BWW Review: HAMLET: ROTTEN STATES, The Hope Theatre
The new year has officially seen the passing of the artistic direction baton from Matthew Parker to Kennedy Bloomer at The Hope Theatre. Opening the decade in style are 6FootStories with their rewriting of everyone's most beloved Prince of Denmark. Hamlet has hired three players to expose Claudius's diabolic plan. We meet them deep in rehearsals when the ghost of Hamlet Sr thunders in (in uproarious fashion, one must add) to request they avenge his death.
What follows is the funniest desecration of Shakespearean text in town. In 65 minutes Will Bridges, Amy Fleming, and Jake Hassam remove Hamlet's inky cloak under Nigel Munson's seamless direction and wrap him up in a bustling, extra cool vibe. The trio are a machine, with spotless comedic timing and an unrelenting pace they take the Hope's black box on a trip to Elsinore with quivering lips and manbuns. The original script creeps in almost unnoticed in their reworking, and they get to show their dramatic acting chops during the more somber moments.
It's compelling to witness how the pretence and the performance within the performance manage to pull them out of the complications in the Bard's verse. Their delivery becomes a team effort: they swap characters and envelop tragedy with comedy, never missing a beat while also manning the sound and light cues. Even though major cuts were put in place as demonstrated by the sketches and diagrams with plot devices and such that plaster the walls, the story isn't particularly affected and moves coherently forward towards its unfortunate ending.
They are simply brilliant. Their humour is finely tuned and the more serious notes in the storytelling become brief poetic instances (Ophelia's suicide is especially striking in its tonal ambivalence) before they're dragged back to their comic nature. It's impressive to see how, in spite of the play's endgame, they succeeded in turning Hamlet's monologue into a reasoned rumination that makes perfect sense.
Not only Hamlet: Rotten States is a roguish night out, but 6FootStories bring to the stage a peculiar, inventive, and absolutely hilarious take on the nation's second favourite problematic ruling family.
Image courtesy of Matthew Koltenborn